Ammonium nitrate (AN) became infamous when convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh used it in the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.
Ammonium nitrate is back in our collective consciousness with the horrific Beirut, Lebanon, blast, and its reminders of the explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant that claimed at least 15 lives, caused 200 injuries and destroyed more than 50 homes. The Beirut disaster is only the latest in an inglorious history between humans and ammonium nitrate.
More than a dozen other explosions involving the chemical have occurred over the past century. The deadliest was on April 16, 1947, when a series of explosions rocked the huge waterfront petrochemical complex at Texas City, just southeast of Houston.
The disaster began with an explosion on a French freighter filled with more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. The blast and ensuing fires left at least 576 people dead and 5,000 injured.